NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Last night was Brown hockey, the same tough, pack-it-in-your-house, defensive style that had earned them wins in games one and three a week ago against Rensselaer. Tonight was Yale hockey, that fast-paced, quick transitioning, dynamic puck movement display Ingalls Rink observers have grown accustomed to.
The difference was who got the early lead. On Friday, Brown got two quick goals to start the second after the hosts came out flat, allowing them to settle in and play tight, confident defense. Tonight, the Bulldogs scored in the first minute to put the Bears back on their heels trying to play catch-up and they never regrouped, much like game two at RPI. Dj vu anyone? Brown fans hope so.
“You could have put the RPI uniforms on that Yale team,” said Brown coach Brendan Whittet. “What Yale did to us, that’s what RPI did to us, and shame on us for not learning our lessons last weekend. We had guys that we count on, guys that are in prime positions, and they didn’t show up to play. It’s unbelievably frustrating.”
Yale needed to win this game, not only to stay alive for a chance at their second-straight, and second ever, season sweep of the Cleary and Whitelaw Cups, but also to not seriously jeopardize their NCAA at-large hopes. Brown now needs to win every game they play the rest of the way, or their season is over.
“We knew we had to win,” said Yale senior Mark Arcobello. “To be honest with you, it did (cross my mind this could be my last game). I think that was in everyone’s mind that this could be our last game of the year, so let’s make sure it’s not.”
Much has been made of how Yale would adjust to the loss of Sean Backman. Before the series, Yale coach Keith Allain said he planned to tinker with a few line combinations, but through two games, he has been remarkably consistent in his choices. Arcobello took Backman’s spot next to Andrew Miller and Brian O’Neill, while Kevin Limbert replaced Arcobello alongside Denny Kearney and Broc Little.
The Bulldogs did make an adjustment on their power play though after going only one-for-seven in game one. They went back to four forwards on the first unit, with Arcobello taking Backman’s old spot on the point next to defenseman Tom Dignard and Miller, O’Neill, and Little up front. Kearney also dropped down next to Jeff Anderson on the second unit, which also welcomed back Brendan Mason. The move worked, as each unit picked up a goal.
“I wouldn’t characterize last night’s power play as weak,” Allain began. “But, the unit we went to with Denny, Andy, Mase, Peeler, and Jimmy is a unit we’ve used before so we thought it would be good to go back to something that had already been successful for us.”
“I started out there the beginning of the year and we had to switch up a couple things because of Sean’s absence,” Arcobello said of working the point. “But I’m comfortable up there, I like getting the puck, dishing it to Miller and ‘Digs’ so it’s a good new look.”
Yale went up 1-0 only :26 into the game. Little cleaned up the rebound of a Dignard shot on the right side of the net. He had trouble controlling the loose puck, but still got it in the near top corner over Clemente’s glove.
Jimmy Martin made it a two-goal game on the lone power play of the first at 6:11. He took a slap shot with a wide open lane from the slot after the puck came to him from Kearney off a battle on the wall.
Little beat two defenseman on a breakaway to start the second, but Clemente absolutely stoned him as Little tried to make a move around him.
Clemente gave up a soft one to Limbert on a wrist shot from just inside the blue line less than two minutes into the period to make it 3-0 Elis. Kearney assisted on each of the first three goals.
The Bulldogs really started to run away with it after a game of tic-tac-toe 10:28 into the middle frame. Little came on early for Arcobello on a change and made a pass from the right wing point down low to Miller who sent it across to O’Neill on the backdoor for a pretty goal.
Dan Rosen replaced Clemente, who had 20 saves, after the fourth goal. He finished with 17 stops of his own and certainly looked like the seasoned veteran he is, but there is no question about who will be in there tomorrow.
“Clemente is in the net,” said Whittet. “Danny played well in relief, but Mike Clemente is our bread and butter. We didn’t help Mike at all. I pulled Mike because we didn’t work hard, and we got a severe beating by a team that had way more desire, way more pride, and we got exactly what we deserved.”
Brown opened up the scoring in the third with a two-on-one short-handed goal at 2:56. Martin jumped up in the zone from the point to take a slap shot and had it deflected back to the neutral zone, leading Harry Zolnierczyk on a break down the right wing with Jack Maclellan in tow. He fed it across to Maclellan, who put it through the five-hole as Billy Blase stacked the pads.
Blase got the start in nets for the second night in a row, giving some stability in net to the Elis, maybe. Asked how he though Blase played, Allain said only, “Fine,” which in fairness was an upgrade from last night’s assessment of “OK”. Will Blase start again tomorrow? “Maybe.”
Yale got its four-goal lead back on the same power play just over a minute later. Miller found O’Neill on the side of the net to beat Rosen for the first time.
Aaron Volpatti scored on a two-man advantage off a feed from Jeff Buvinow at 13:52, but somehow that is all the Bears managed to come away with, as all the penalty-kill time started to wear on Yale.
“I think they were tired,” commented O’Neill. “They played three games last weekend. They only roll four ‘D’ it seems like, especially when they have a lot of (special teams) stuff. It was really important to keep wearing them down and it paid dividends in the second and third.”
Each team added a goal in the final two minutes while playing four-on-four after matching minors and misconducts to Mason and Zolnierczyk. Miller went around Rosen and it looked like his backhand went off the skate of Russell and in. Then Yale failed to clear its zone, Scott Van der Linden got the puck near the blue line and skated up to the right and fired a hard shot through a screen to beat Blase.
The deciding game of this best-of-three ECAC quarterfinal will be right back at Ingalls Rink in New Haven tomorrow at 7 p.m.